Creating a Successful Marketing Automation Strategy

There’s a lot of buzz around marketing automation these days—and for a good reason. Not only does it help alleviate the work of what were once time-consuming, repetitive marketing tasks, but it also opens the door for increased personalization and a stronger return on investment.

Sounds great, right?

That’s why Forrester‘s prediction that spending on marketing automation tools will grow dramatically over the next few years, reaching as much as $25.1 billion by 2023, raises no eyebrows.

The reason: Experts believe that marketers are still in the early stages of adoption around marketing automation tools.



What’s most interesting about this specific data set is that it predicts double-digit growth over the next five years for not one type of marketing automation tool—but six.

Cross-channel campaign management software, content marketing platforms, lead-to-revenue management automation platforms, marketing resource management software, real-time interaction management solutions, and through-channel marketing automation platforms are all projected to experience rapid growth. They may even have budgets that pull money away from more traditional forms of marketing (such as TV, print, and radio.)

So what’s holding back the tidal wave of growth and adoption around marketing automation tools?

For many, there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty around the how, what, and why when it comes to marketing automation. Companies aren’t sure how to best leverage it, what type of investment it’ll require, and which tools will be the most effective for their needs.

The good news is: With a smart strategy and clear objectives in place, you can make sense of the world around marketing automation in no time at all.

In this post, we’ll be covering the basics of marketing automation, examining why it matters, and taking an in-depth look at strategy-building. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

What is Marketing Automation?

First things first: Let’s get on the same page about what marketing automation is.

Marketing automation includes software and technologies designed for marketing teams that effectively execute marketing activities across various channels. It helps automate repetitive tasks, increases the possibilities around personalization, and allows teams to efficiently scale their marketing tactics. From marketing processes to multi-purpose campaigns, marketing automation pairs technology and automation for increased overall efficiency.

When marketing automation is put to good use, marketing teams are freed up to focus on other (less time-consuming) tasks, and human mistakes are dramatically reduced.

what is marketing automation

One common example of marketing automation involves email marketing. In this realm, automation might include things like personalization at scale.

What is Personalization?

Personalization is the act of tailoring a specific product or a service based on your audience preferences. On a website, personalization includes tweaking navigation, images or content depending on visitor intentions, where they are at your company’s buyer journey, geography, demographics, etc. It provides meaningful experiences for your customers and boosts your business growth. via freshworks

At a basic level, personalization allows marketers to include a subscriber’s first name so that each email feels tailor-made. But at a deeper level, marketing automation helps marketers leverage detailed subscriber profiles and offer more targeted, relevant email messages that speak to individual interests, tastes, and past purchases (think product recommendations, for example.)

But automation encompasses far more than just email. Other forms include:

  • Website optimization: Tools for split testing two different variations of a web page, such as a copy, images, layout, etc. to find which produces the best results
  • Social media management: Scheduling tools help with planning and execution around posting on social media channels, as well as monitoring important keywords, hashtags, and brand mentions
  • Text messaging: Helps drive sales through texts that automatically send promotional messages based on action-triggered customer behaviors, like geographic proximity to a retail location or a customer’s birthday

The main trait that ties all of these types of marketing automation together is that they are automatically handled by a tool. That means marketers are no longer tied to their desks, manually integrating spreadsheet data or completing customer profiles. The legwork around manual, time-consuming marketing tasks of the past is virtually eliminated.


Why Marketing Automation Matters

So why do we care about marketing automation?

Aside from the fact that marketing automation helps teams scale their efforts and boost ROI, we know that it’s also important because of the hard numbers around its relevance and impact.

For example:

  • 63% of companies expect to realize the benefits of their marketing automation system within six months of implementation. –Ascend2
  • Business owners, executives, and marketers identified the biggest benefits of marketing automation as: Saving time (30%), Lead Generation (22%), Increase in Revenue (17%), and Customer Retention (11%). –SmartInsights
  • Almost 70% of marketers say improved targeting of messages is the most important benefit of marketing automation. –Liana Tech


The benefits of marketing automation are far and wide—and in a world where personalization, customer experience, and timelines are only becoming more important, it makes sense as a tactic that helps brands boost customer retention for the long run.

The next question, then, is: How do you build out a successful marketing automation strategy that helps ensure you’re investing wisely and producing maximum results?


Creating a Successful Marketing Automation Strategy

The best marketing automation results come as the product of a thoughtful strategy that strives to achieve a brand’s benchmarks and objectives. In fact, Ascend2 data shows that for 64% of marketing professionals, creating a successful strategy is the top priority when it comes to marketing automation.




So how do you go about building said strategy? There are three main steps to this process. Let’s look at each one in detail.

1. Consider the buyer’s journey

Because there are so many types of marketing automation, it can be tough to know where to begin. Some find it helpful to break down efforts into three main categories that answer the question: Where can automation help before, during, and after the sales process?

Each potential buyer will go through various stages of the buyer’s journey before committing to making a purchase, so you’ll want to consider where automation makes sense along the sales funnel to that ultimate conversion point.

Brainstorm with your team and map out some high-level ideas on how marketing automation:

  • Can help you educate and interest brand new leads
  • Can aid the decision-making process for potential customers
  • Can help engage, retain, and boost loyalty with existing customers

For example, this might look like a triggered workflow (sent with the help of automation) that educates or demonstrates a specific how-to could be helpful for leads who are mid-funnel and considering purchasing the product.

Another way marketing automation can work is through an automated workflow. This works through a series of triggered emails that automatically send when specific actions are taken along the customer journey (like signing up for a product demo, for example.)

2. Set goals

Once you have some preliminary ideas in place that will help shape your strategy, you’ll want to consider how you’ll measure progress and gauge your efforts’ success.

It’s important to define objectives for different elements of the strategy and to establish some benchmarks, so you’re only investing in the most impactful forms of automation for your business. Keep in mind that these should be SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.



An example of a SMART goal for marketing automation might be something like this:

“Increase sales conversions via email marketing by 10% by the end of Q2 in 2019.”

In the beginning, you’ll have to estimate your benchmarks and then adjust accordingly once you have some data to work with that will help you better project what realistic goals are around your different marketing automation efforts.

Over time, your benchmarks and goals will likely change based on what you’re working to accomplish (and what’s achievable.) This is wise, as a strategy for marketing automation isn’t a “one and done” effort. Instead, it needs to evolve over time according to what works (and what doesn’t.)

3. Optimize, optimize, optimize

Once you have some data to work with, the next step is to leverage your findings and optimize your marketing automation efforts. Ascend2 research indicates that mapping the customer experience and use of personalized/dynamic content were deemed the most effective tactics for optimizing marketing automation.



So how do you execute optimization around marketing automation?

a. Regularly assess the performance of your marketing automation tools.

It’s easy to get comfortable with a particular tool or software. Still, if your current marketing technology stack isn’t producing the results you’re looking for, you’ll need to make some changes. To ensure you’re always keeping a close eye on your marketing automation solutions’ performance, be sure to set intervals for regular evaluations and check-in at least monthly to study results.

For example: Have a set team meeting every third Thursday of the month to review key performance indicators around your marketing automation tools. As a team, make notes of what’s working and what’s not, and then adjust accordingly.



Ask the following questions as you look at your marketing automation solutions:

Does each individual marketing automation tool significantly influence sales and drive ROI?

How well are my marketing automation tools working together as a collective?

What are the pros and cons of using a particular software over another?

b. Beware of misleading metrics

As you dive into the numbers around the results of your marketing automation tools, beware of misleading metrics that may lead to false conclusions.

Known as vanity metrics, numbers such as social likes, followers, blog comments, and other seemingly positive statistics can skew marketing results. Rather than focusing on the number of likes on your latest tweet, tune into the numbers that relate to sales, such as email conversion rate, leads generated, and customer acquisition costs. This will help you maintain a big-picture view of what’s genuinely producing results with marketing automation.


c. Gather customer feedback

It’s one thing to assess the number side of the marketing automation equation, but it’s another to go to your customers and ask for their direct input on what’s working and what’s not.

Use regular surveys and polls to give your audience a voice and spot areas for optimizing your ongoing marketing efforts. With quick polls like a Net Promoter Score and more in-depth short and long answer survey questions, this rich customer feedback will help you better prioritize improvements.


Put Marketing Automation to Work Today

No one wants to waste their marketing budget on tools and efforts that don’t pay off. But with a strategy around marketing automation and ongoing optimization efforts, you can easily boost your marketing ROI and make more informed decisions rooted in hard numbers.

Now’s the time to take a hard look at your marketing automation approach and maybe even poke some holes in your current approach. It might be time to try something new and add some more structure.